About 1,500 people attended the recent public meetings held for the proposed Raven Underground Coal Project, the majority of them raising concerns and showing their disapproval of the project, said Coalwatch Comox Valley president John Snyder.
“I only heard one person in all three meetings actually say they were for the mine,” he said.
The meetings were held in Courtenay, Port Alberni and Union Bay for the purpose of explaining and discussing the contents of the draft Application Information Requirements/Environmental Impact Statement Guidelines (draft AIR/EIS Guidelines document) as well as collect public comments on the document.
The document outlines the studies, methodologies and information the project must include in its applications for a provincial Environmental Assessment Certificate and federal environmental assessment approval.
CEO of the Raven Project, John Tapics, said the meetings were satisfying because they allowed members of the communities to ask questions and receive accurate information.
The concerns that were raised were only potential concerns, he said, as it’s still early in the process.
Many of these concerns were already outlined in the document up for review, he said.
“Many of those potential concerns have already been identified by our environmental consultants and have formed the basis of both our mine design and will form the basis of our environmental assessment application.”
He said his company, Compliance Coal Corporation (doing business as the Comox Joint Venture), is already conducting studies regarding many of the concerns, such as completing a full aquifer model, something they’ve been working on for some time, he said.
Snyder said people brought up concerns like negative effects on the shellfish industry, water, air quality, increase in truck traffic and others.
He said people seemed frustrated at the meetings because the environmental assessment agency isn’t asking for people’s approval, only their comments in regards to this document.
“I think a lot of people were saying ‘Why are we doing this? We don’t want this in our neighborhoods,’” he said. “This is not a referendum and I think it’s very frustrating for the people in both communities that we don’t want the project but it seems like we’re just part of the process.”
An overriding tone at the meetings, Snyder said, was if people have to endure this environmental assessment, they want it to be as rigorous as possible. This would mean an independent review panel with full public hearings, something Coalwatch has been pushing for for some time.
Tapics said the existing comprehensive review process already has scientists and technical experts carefully scrutinizing the project to ensure there aren’t any significant adverse environmental or social impacts.
“The current process allows for a very rigorous review of, first of all, what’s required before and after an application is filed…and then also a very rigorous review once the information is filed.”
The proposed coal mine would be located approximately five kilometres west of the Buckley Bay ferry terminal and proposes to remove metallurgical or “steel-making” coal for export to steel-making markets in Japan and South Korea. The proposed development would have a footprint of about 200 hectares.
Coalwatch is a citizens group that formed in response to the proposed mine. For more information on Coalwatch visit www.coalwatch.ca. The comment period for the draft AIR/EIS Guidelines document ends June 27, visit www.theravenproject.ca for more information.